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Nearly one third of S. Africans receive welfare

Thirty percent of South Africans receive state welfare — including more than 10 million children — to counter massive inequalities inherited from apartheid, a minister said Thursday.

“We are trying to respond to the imbalances of the past and the programmes the government has put in are addressing that,” Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini told a press briefing.

The treasury has allocated 97 billion rands ($14 billion, 9.8 billion euros) to welfare grants in 2011, accounting for about one-tenth of state spending for the year.

Critics say South Africa’s welfare system is unsustainable, but the government says its assistance is a key anti-poverty measure.

“This is an intervention which is temporary because we are a nation in transition. This is not going to be a permanent feature of the state,” Dlamini said.

South Africa had 15.3 million of its 49.9 million people on grants by end March, set to rise by another million this year as the net widens to older children.

Only 5.9 million people paid income tax in 2009, as most live below the minimum tax threshold.

Pensioners receive up to 1,160 rands a month, children receive 260 rands and foster care parents 740 rands.

Seventeen years after white-minority apartheid rule, the country faces massive unemployment and is one of the world’s most unequal countries with thousands of black families still living in shanties and rural areas.

Research published earlier this year showed that whites still earned nearly eight times more than blacks in 2008.